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Bulgaria’s government to buy 8 new F-16s from US

An F-16C Fighting Falcon prepares to launch at Campia Turzii, Romania, May 8, 2019.

ANDREW LAYTON/U.S. AIR FORCE

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: July 10, 2019

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s government gave the go-ahead Wednesday for the purchase of eight new F-16 fighters in a bid to replace its aging Soviet-built jets and to bring its air force in line with NATO standards.

The decision for the biggest military purchase in post-Communist Bulgaria still needs parliamentary approval, but it is expected to get that easily given that the ruling coalition has a majority.

Once that happens, the defense minister will sign the contract for the purchase of eight multi-role F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft with the producer, Lockheed Martin.

Deputy defense minister Atanas Zapryanov told reporters that the $1.25 billion deal includes the aircraft, ammunition, equipment and pilot training, and that there is an option for the U.S. Congress to contribute $60 million. He said that six single-seat and two dual-seat F-16s would be delivered by 2023.

U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin won the government-sponsored tender, outbidding Swedish SAAB Gripen fighters and secondhand Italian Eurofighter Typhoons.

Bulgaria, which joined NATO in 2004, has sought ever since to update its air fleet of Soviet-made MiG-29 jets, but repeatedly has been forced to postpone the decision due to financial problems.

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